Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sakamoto Ryuichi solo piano concert @ Osaka Sankei Hall March 28th

The concert began at 4 pm.
All of the lights were dimmed...even the emergency exit lights.
I could feel the blanket of darkness and silence cover the audience, its texture, soft and cool. It was a moment to prepare our faculties of perceiving sight, sound and touch. This was the gateway into the world of Sakamoto Ryuichi.

Through the dark and quiet came the sound of trickling water. Then a deep tremor, different notes slowly vibrating. Synthesizer? Not exactly. It was mechanical yet organic. The darkness slowly gives way to a glowing halo. The darkness becomes evanescent in the light and we can finally make out the lines of a man hunched over a grand piano, not at it’s keys but at it’s strings. He looks like a mad scientist reaching into his mechanical creation, tweaking at knobs and buttons. Unaware that he is being watched.
As I am mesmerized by the plucking of piano strings, the mad scientist figure seems to evaporate, molecules of human and piano become undistinguishable. Silence brings the end of the piece Glaciers from his latest album Out of Noise.

Sakamoto relocates before the keys, stunning my ears this time with the clear timbre of the piano, gradually evolving into music.

He continues to play several pieces from his latest album and then takes time to reach for a microphone as the applause rises like a wave from behind me. I finally realize I am in the 7th row, right in the center of my isle.

Sakamoto, aka Kyouju (Professor) is used to talking about his music since he has his own radio show and is not as shy as he looks. But he does not shout or over express, it is more like a friend mumbling about the oddities of the entertainment business and the passion he has for music.

His other passion, the environment is also profiled on the screen behind him.
Pictures reduced to slits of what look like flowers or butterfly wings… mere glimpses of our Earth.  

One of my favorite pieces from his latest album is played, Hibari (Skylark).
Random notes signifying the voices of newborn larks just learning to sing. Their songs overlapping, hitting flats, wavering, not confident yet. Gradually they become more competent the skylark learns the joy to sing.

He also performed pieces that have made him the icon that he is, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Behind the Mask and the theme from the soundtrack to The Last Emperor.
A different set list can be found here.
(It is not the same as the March 28th concert although similar.)

After two encores, the lights went up and people started to leave…I was sent to another level of the building and passed into a back corridor leading to dressing rooms. A small room full of people were to be introduced to the man behind the magic.
You could see the tension but I was far from tense…it felt like I was in a dream…

When he entered the room, because of where I was standing, I became first in line to shake hands with the Professor. 
My spiel of how honored I was to meet him was rehearsed in my head in Japanese, but it came out in English. 

He lives in New York most of the time so it didn’t seem to bother him, he quickly replied in English “thank you”. 

He made his rounds, and before leaving the room, I was again standing in front of the man I admire so much, not only as a musician but as an activist as well. He said thank you to me again and I think I smiled… at least I hope I did.

For better pictures check out:

and of course please check out his website at

The following video was taken at the concert by yours truly's is not illegal! 
The piece he is playing is for a Samsung mobile phone commercial.  The audience was allowed to take videos and pictures during this one short piece.  The details are hard to see, but Sakamoto is smiling and having a good time... but at the end of this piece, he tells us how nerve racking that was!  He is a good sport. ;-)

for better sound and visual quality here is a PV...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for explaining hibari. But I still don't get it. I got his latest album and the first track puzzled me, it's like a 5 sec. loop repeated for 10 or so minutes. What's the deal with that? I've been searching all over why is it so, but all I got was confused reactions or the Love Distance link. It still surprises me why this track's the one that made the i-tunes japan chart.
It's Eraserheads not Erasureheads. Philippines most influential band. The group disbanded 2002 and reunited again last October but the concert was cut short bec. the frontman collapsed. They resumed the reunion gig last March in front of a 100,000+ audience, the biggest paid concert in the Philippines.
I'm surprised you liked Tamagochi Baby because it's pretty obscure (from their album Aloha Milkyway).

I_am_Tulsa said...

Thank you for stopping by. I am thrilled you have left a comment.

Hibari was inspired by a story about Glenn Gould - who was inspired by a book titled "Grass Pillow" by a Japanese author (1867-1916) Natsume Soseki. It is said that Glenn was trying to compose music based on this book.

It seems that Sakamoto wanted to pay homage to Glenn and he chose a passage from the first chapter that describes coming upon the voice of a skylark, the bird cannot be seen but the voice goes on and on...

I can only speculate why it was on the i-tunes japan chart...believe me there are many tracks on i-tunes charts that make me wonder how they get there....

Aaaah, ErasErheads...forgive me, I am obviously not the world's best typist... YOU are surprised I like Tamagochi Baby... believe me I'm just as surprised that somebody noticed my plea on the sidebar and actually knew about them to be able to respond!
I am a proud owner of the album Aloha Milkyway.
AND I am happy to hear that the front man is better...I wonder if they will be releasing anything new?

cheers to you!